Like a king cobra on speed, the CSX oil train cut through the falling snow and rolled along the tracks at 33 m.p.h.—transporting 3 million gallons of highly-flammable crude. But the convoy was a poor match for its cargo. At 1:20 p.m. Eastern time on February 16—35 miles outside of Charleston, West Virginia—the 109-car train derailed.
Fireballs sliced through the cold air; a house was leveled in flames; hundreds of home owners lost electricity and drinking water; and a Kanawha River tributary oozed with oil. One man told the Los Angeles Times that the spill emanated heat like an “atomic bomb.”
Had the derailment happened 35 miles sooner, Charleston could have been burned to the ground and the lives of the city’s 50,000-plus residents would have changed—or ended. Despite this horrific scare and bipartisan support for building pipelines to transport crude oil, President Obama is threatening to veto the development of Keystone, XL.
The Merriment Express
Modern pipeline technology is capable of transporting crude oil from places like North Dakota and Montana in a manner that is safer, more economical and more environmentally friendly than rail.
There are zero environmental arguments against building pipelines to transport crude oil. As I’ve written before, the administration’s own State Department has thrice declared Keystone XL to be an environmentally-safe project. Furthermore, TIME Magazine has shown that transporting crude oil via rail emits more emissions than via pipeline.
When pushed into a corner with such facts, self-proclaimed environmentalists refuse to concede their flawed logic. Instead they persist: “That’s why we shouldn’t be fracking or drilling at all! We should rely on wind and solar!”
Environmentalists-In-Name-Only (EINOs) who espouse such fantasy theories may as well be the conductors of the Merriment Express. There is no use denying that if EINOs are allowed to implement their enviro-fantasies in real-world public policy, innocent human beings will die.
Murder On The Merriment
47 people died horrific, painful deaths when an oil train derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in 2013. Last Monday’s spill in West Virginia is one of many close-calls that we should take as warning signs before more people die. For example, 14 oil cars derailed outside of a children’s museum in Lynchburg, VA in 2014. And, earlier this month, 29 cars carrying crude from the Bakken oil patch derailed on the perimeter of Timmins, Ontario.
By sheer luck or the grace of God, last Monday’s derailment occurred 35 miles after passing through Charleston and no one was killed. West Virginia law professor Patrick McGinley told the Associated Press that if Charleston had been hit, it would have been one of the largest catastrophes in American history.
Trains and railroads were not designed to safely transport millions of gallons of crude oil through residential areas. Pipelines, in contrast, are designed for this precise purpose.
Endangering human lives for political gain is not amusing. Nevertheless, despite bilateral support for Keystone XL, there are a handful of enviro-elites such as billionaire Tom Steyer who prefer to ignore reality and cruise along at top speed on the Merriment Express.
Saving The Earth and Her Most Precious Resource, Human Life
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to interview an authenticenvironmentalist. Her name is Tisha Schuller and she is the president and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.
Schuller started out as an environmental consultant. She became passionate about petroleum when she realized that it was a product with a “transformative effect to be a solution for climate change and global poverty.” Plastics, steel, fertilizer, electronics, clothing as well as our transportation and shelter still come primarily from petroleum-refined products. Schuller pointed out: “Everything that’s fundamental to our way of life is based on petroleum products.”
A self-described “energy agnostic,” Schuller is committed to “research and development” of new forms of energy such as wind and solar. She is also unwilling to ask poor people to pay the price of replacing fossil fuels with renewables before the technology is competitive.
“‘I’m driving a Tesla,’ or ‘I have solar panels on my roof,’” are things that environmentalists may say to make themselves feel good, says Schuller. Environmentalists make the mistake of forgetting that “those things are about consuming” and there is “significant hypocrisy in making other people assume the cost” of your consumption of renewables.
“One fourth of U.S. citizens are living in poverty,” notes Schuller. Spikes in energy prices hit low-income families the hardest because they spend “25% of their income on energy.”
Residential electricity prices are up 39% according the Wall Street Journal. This price hike is due in part to the fact that taxpayers are being asked to subsidize higher-cost renewables while coal plants are being shut down under pressure from federal regulations.
Schuller suggests that Americans take a more rational approach to energy exploration and focus on how we can reduce consumption of all forms of energy as well as use the energy that we have available to us—such as oil and gas—to help more Americans dig themselves out of poverty while improving the quality of life for all.
Schuller’s philosophy is to find local or state-based solutions for utilizing energy. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s model in Colorado would be a great template for other states. Hint, hint.
Unless EINOs decide to end their fantasy train ride and start supporting oil pipeline development, “Murder on the Merriment Express” will be the tale of underprivileged people shivering as they struggle to pay their energy bills while other innocent Americans burn to death in tragic train derailments.